Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘place names’

Photo: Annette Ruzicka/ Guardian
Ngarinyin children playing in a region of Australia that’s reclaiming indigenous place names.

As a fan of efforts to preserve rare languages, I believe that using native people’s names for geographical places is also important. Brian Friel captures the concept in Translations, his play about English soldiers changing place names in Ireland: “It can happen that a civilisation can be imprisoned in a linguistic contour which no longer matches the landscape of … fact.”

Colonists always try to impose their culture, but in the end, it is unlikely to turn out well.

At the Guardian series “Indigenous Investigations,” Annette Ruzicka reports in a photo essay that the reinstatement of traditional place names in a region of Australia “signals a new wave of empowerment” for aboriginal people called the Ngarinyin.

“Hit the Gibb River Road out of Derby, Western Australia, and you find yourself heading towards the northern Kimberley plateau, a breathtaking landscape of sandstone ranges, rivers and boab-dotted savannah country. About 63,000 sq km of this land is Wilinggin country of the Ngarinyin people and their connection to country dates back 60,000 years.

“One of the first stops towards Wilinggin country passes the Queen Victoria Head – a rock formation bearing an uncanny resemblance to the famous monarch. While it’s a blunt reminder of colonialism, it’s also the gateway to an area that until very recently had far more dubious name – the King Leopold Ranges, named after the Belgian king responsible for grievous atrocities, brutal oppression and enslavement of African people. …

“After two years of work behind the scenes, traditional owner groups made some new headlines with a historic name change to the Wunaamin Miliwundi Ranges. It’s a hybrid name to represent both the Ngarinyin (Wunaamin) and Bunuba (Miliwundi) traditional names.

“Since then, another seven places in this conservation park have changed back to their Ngarinyin name.

“Since the Wanjina Wunggurr Wilinggin native title determination in 2004, the Ngarinyin people have made significant moves to empower their community and return to, and care for, country. One of the first things they set up after determination was an Indigenous ranger program: the Wunggurr Rangers.

“Ngarinyin man Robin Dann was one of the first rangers employed and is now head ranger, living on country in the Ngallagunda community, with his family. His younger brother Kane Nenowatt is more recent addition to the Wunggurr rangers while his wife, Tanya Spider, sits on the Wilinggin board of directors. …

“One of locations changed back to its traditional name is (the formerly named) Barker pool, now Dudungarri mindi. The name refers to the dreamtime story of the Wanjina spirit and the Yawarlngarri jirri (blue catfish) which live in this pool. This represents a rich and ancient history that Ngarinyin people hope to share with visitors alongside the staggering beauty of the region. …

“With it comes a genuine economy: employment and investment brought to the region by the people themselves. With a second ranger group on the way, the determination of the Ngarinyin people to stand on their own is a shining light in an uncertain world.” More at the Guardian, here.

On Facebook, I started following a different group of Australian indigenous people, NPY Women’s Council. The home page says it “is led by women’s law, authority and culture to deliver health, social and cultural services for all Anangu.” In one post, Nellie Patterson reported, “We went to the Olympics so that all the people there would see the strength of who we are. The Olympic experience has made us strong with a resolve that has never been shaken since.

“We did a really important inma (ceremony) in Sydney and we did it with the intention of making a deep impression on the people who saw it and in the hope of better relationships and collaborations with other people in the future. It was a very important occasion.

“My sister carried a great deal of valuable knowledge and she and I made this inma available through Women’s Council for the benefit of everyone across the country.” For more about the council, click here.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: